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Rated 3.02 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Praise for Theater Legend
by Betty Jo Tucker

It Takes a Lunatic shows how Wynn Handman became a legend in the theater world. In the 1960s, Handman co-founded the unique American Place Theatre in Manhattan, which was funded by subscriptions Ė not ticket sales. Only a lunatic would think this could work! But it turned out to be influential in introducing new blood and ideas into theatrical arts for many years to come.

The main goal of this project involved producing experimental plays by new authors/artists who might not have any other outlets. As the producer and artistic director, Handman worked with these diverse authors and with the directors as well as with the cast members. He also served as a successful acting coach for many students who are now famous, including Richard Gere, Michael Douglas, Connie Britton, Bill Irwin, Aasif Mandvi, Mia Farrow, Sam Shepard, Anna Deavere Smith, Allison Janney, Chris Cooper and Denzel Washington.

Fascinating testimonials from the people who worked with Handman make up most of this special documentary directed by Billy Lyons, Kim Ferraro and Seth Isler. Itís clear how revered Handman (now 97) is to them. He treats everyone with a gentle warmth that makes them feel comfortable. As an acting coach, that can make all the difference. He also emphasizes looking inward to the truth about yourself as well as the character being played in order to give an honest performance.   

Wynn Handman is the master here

revealed on screen for us to cheer.  

The scenes show actors giving praise

for theater projects he did raise.


To Wynn, theater and acting

assume importance like breathing.

His help to both have meant so much

because of his masterly touch.


Work with students who want to act

becomes almost a solemn pact.

Truth in inhabiting a role,

Wynn believes can create a soul.


He brought writers into the fold  

and nurtured them like they were gold.

Such great respect this man has earned.

And Iím inspired by what I learned.     

It Takes a Lunatic runs a bit too long (2 hours and 6 minutes). Although Handmanís experience in the Coast Guard influenced his interest in and thoughtful approach to acting, some interspersed scenes from that important period of his life fail to add much to this otherwise excellent documentary. But I think that would make another interesting film.   

This would be a very good thing, if the theater took itself seriously as a factory of thought, an elucidator of social conscience, an armor against despair and dullness, and a temple of the ascent of man. --- George Bernard Shaw

(Released by Netflix. Not rated by MPAA.)

For more information about this documentary, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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